The central government has assured thousands of research scholars, who have been on a strike over their demand for a stipend hike, that the matter was under serious consideration and a decision will be announced after all due procedures are completed. Research scholars have been demanding a hike in their monthly stipends since July this year. They have also demanded constitution of a regulatory body to monitor issues regarding fellowships and extension of fellowships beyond five years, among other issues.
But with no assurance or action by the Centre in the following months, students from various national-level research institutions, including IISER, Pune and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), took out silent protest rallies last month. A group from Research Scholars of India also organised such a protest on the streets of New Delhi, following which the Centre called a meeting with the students on November 6.
A group of research fellows met Professor K Vijay Raghavan, Principle Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, who informed the students that the matter was one of top priority and the outcome would be positive. “After hearing our side during the meeting , Professor Vijay Raghavan has assured us that deliberations with various research funding agencies were successful. He also informed us that the government has taken up the matter on a priority basis,” said a student who represents the Research Scholars of India, and who attended the meeting held in Delhi.
The fellowship stipends were last hiked in 2014 and as per the revision, the monthly stipend amount paid to Junior Research Fellows is Rs 25,000 and Senior Research Fellows is Rs 28,000. The main funding agencies that decide the stipends to be paid to the researchers are the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
The representative from the Research Scholars of India said, “We were told that the government is keen on streamlining all matters pertaining to fellowships. The matter is under consideration and all due procedures are being followed prior to announcing the final decision.”